The College Baseball Blog continues our series of interviews with coaches from around the nation. We check in today with Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell who is entering his fourth season in charge of the program. He had a magical run in the 2007 season leading the Cardinals to the College World Series in his first campaign. He led them back to the tournament in 2008 while bringing them in 2009 to the Fullerton Super Regional. Dan spent the summer of 2009 as an assistant coach with the USA Collegiate National Team where they went 19-5.
1. Louisville had an impressive 2009 campaign as they went 47-18 while going 19-7 in Big East play. The Cardinals made their third straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament including a Super Regional appearance. The Cardinals return 22 letter winners from last years team including seven position starters and twelve pitchers. What are your expectations for the 2010 team?
Dan McDonnell: Our goal is to win a national championship! We feel the talent, experience and desire is there, but obviously we have to figure some things out yet. Who gets the ball on Friday night and will be consistent week in and week out like Justin Marks? Thomas Royse, Dean Kiekhefer, Tony Zych, and several other candidates are in position to fill that role. Secondly, who leads off? Is Drew Haynes ready to be an offensive threat and play as steady as his defense has been? We will shut people down on the mound, and we will score runs, but we have to see who steps up in a few areas.
2. Have any of the incoming freshmen impressed you during Fall Workouts? Do you expect any of them to break into the starting lineup/rotation this spring?
DM: Several freshmen were impressive during the fall. On the mound, right-handed pitchers Matt Koch, Andy Flett, and Curtis McCombs all showed they can get out this fall and are not afraid to attack the zone. Offensively, Kyle Grieshaber can really run and hit, while Cade Stallings is a middle of the lineup type hitter. Jarred Clarkson and Drew Fitzpatrick showed lots of athletic tools in the outfield. Also, three junior college transfers look to make immediate impact in 6’6″ left-handed pitcher Brian Feekin, hitter Mike Morrison and catcher JJ Ethel.
3. Last season, Louisville had nine different pitchers record at least one save. Do you see anyone stepping into the closer’s role full-time or do you see using the closer by committee philosophy again?
DM: We feel confident we will have someone dominant in that role. Over the last three years, we had Trystan Magnuson (1st round draft pick, reached Class AA with the Blue Jays this summer, played in the Baseball World Cup for Team Canada this past summer) in 2008, BJ Rosenburg (reached Class AA with the Phillies in 2009, played in the Baseball World Cup for Team USA this past summer) in 2009 and Tony Zych for part of last season (Freshman All America, Team USA this summer). It could be Tony Zych again, or it could be Bob Revesz or Gabriel Shaw. However, I feel it is more important that we win the first six innings of each game, so finding our starters is of greater importance. When it is all said and done, pitching coach Roger Williams will have the right guy in that role.
4. The Big East is getting stronger every year with the improvements to facilities and programs becoming fully funded. What team is going to be the biggest challenge to winning the 2010 Big East title?
DM: Several teams will be in the mix, starting with South Florida, who had a very good year last year with a lot of young talent. UConn is very similar making it to the Big East Championship game with a lot of young position players. St. Johns is always strong and Notre Dame has players. West Virginia can always hit and Cincinnati is winning in all sports this year.
5. You spent the summer of 2009 as an assistant coach with the USA Collegiate National Team which played games around the world including a trip to Japan. How was the experience coaching alongside Tulane’s Rick Jones, Elon’s Mike Kennedy, and Wright State’s Rob Cooper?
DM: Wearing the USA uniform was a dream come true and I hope I upheld my end of the deal trying to represent the country in the highest manner. There’s a reason Rick Jones is one of the best coaches in the country. He stands for what is right in baseball, demands a lot from his players but respects them as well. He gives his assistants responsibilities, but lets them coach. I learned a great deal from Rick, but also Rob and Mike. Those are two very successful Division I coaches with experience leading their teams to the NCAA’s. I have always been told the guys you coach with will determine your experience in the summer and I hit the jackpot!
6. There are many different options for your student-athletes to play baseball during the summer including Team USA and the Cape Cod Baseball League to name a few. How do you decide where to put your players in the summer?
DM: We take great pride in placing our players in leagues where they are set up to succeed. Our players know when they leave Louisville for the summer they are expected to uphold our university and program to the highest. They are expected to work hard and do whatever they can to help their summer teams win a championship. They know how we feel about winning championships. They don’t all have to go to the Cape. It is a great league, but the fit has to be right. We have had success also sending players to the Coastal Plain League, New England League and the New York League just to mention a few. I believe if you have a chance to play for Team USA and represent the greatest country in the world, you have to do that. I’m all for innings and at bats, but there is no way I would encourage a young man to choose more innings or at bats than the opportunity to represent our country.
The College Baseball Blog would like to thank Dan for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer these questions for us. Special thanks to Garett Wall of Louisville Media Relations for setting up the interview for us. If any other SID’s or coaches would like to be featured feel free to send me an email by clicking here.